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What Is Rh Immune Globulin?

The Rhesus Factor set of blood types.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 11 October 2014
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Rh immune globulin is a medication that prevents the development of sensitivity to Rhesus or RH factor, a protein found on some blood cells. Sensitivity is a cause for concern when a mother who is Rh negative carries a baby who is Rh positive, because her body will attack fetal blood cells. This can cause pregnancy loss and other complications. Preventing such sensitivity can help women carry pregnancies successfully to term and can reduce the risk of complications in future pregnancies.

Numerous companies manufacture Rh immune globulin. The injection is typically given directly in muscle tissue to allow the antibodies inside to circulate. These antibodies lock on to any Rh positive blood cells in the body, effectively concealing them from the patient’s immune system. Since the immune system is never exposed to the protein, it doesn’t have an opportunity to develop antibodies to it. Some Rh positive cells will be destroyed by the injection, but not enough to endanger the fetus if the patient is pregnant.

This medication can be given in any situation where an Rh negative woman is exposed to Rh positive blood. It must be offered before her body has a chance to start forming antibodies. Once it does, she will be sensitized, and can have problems during pregnancies. Injections of Rh immune globulin in these cases will not be helpful, because her body will store the antibodies for future use.

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One reason to give Rh immune globulin is after pregnancy loss or termination, as the mother may have been exposed to fetal blood. Blood transfusions can also be a reason. Even if a patient isn’t sure about having children in the future, this protective measure may be recommended just in case. The preventative treatment can reduce the risk of problems with pregnancies, and doesn’t pose a significant risk to the patient.

If bleeding occurs during a pregnancy, the mother may also need a shot of Rh immune globulin. Bleeding may be the result of spotting or other complications, trauma, or after a procedure like amniocentesis. Care providers typically recommend a blood panel at the start of a pregnancy to check for any health issues, and if the mother is Rh negative, they may recommend taking precautions during the pregnancy. Expecting mothers with concerns about developing sensitivity after medical procedures or traumatic events can talk to their care providers to determine if a treatment with Rh immune globulin is necessary.

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